Hong Kong/Singapore/Jakarta (21/10). Despite a police’s ban on a cancelled march, on Sunday (Oct 20), Hong Kong protesters took over roads and vandalised property across Kowloon as the unrest entered its 20th straight weekend. However, protesters had been keen to make sure that the Kowloon mosque was not targeted during massive demonstration in Tsim Sha Tsui.
While not being a victim of vandalism, still the Kowloon Masjid and Islamic Centre struck by blue dye water cannon. During clashes, vehicle stopped and sprayed blue dye while dealing with anti-government protests at the weekend at the Tsim Sha Tsui venue, where the Mosque is standing. The colouring is intended to make it easier to catch frontline protesters after a crowd disperses.
The original Kowloon Mosque was built in the late nineteenth century to cater for Muslim soldiers from British-ruled India. It was rebuilt in the early 1980s and remains a centre of Hong Kong’s 300,000-strong Muslim community.
Videos showed the water cannon truck firing blue liquid at the mosque, as well as people in front of it – including Muslims reportedly protecting the place of worship, journalists, and bystanders.
The force came under fire after their water cannon truck stopped and sprayed a solution laced with blue dye over the to the city’s biggest mosque’s entrance and front steps.
Shortly afterwards, the police released a statement saying the water cannon truck’s stream had accidentally hit the mosque. “The police highly respect places of worship as well as religious freedom and will continue to maintain close communication with the Kowloon Mosque and the Muslim community in Hong Kong,” a statement said.
“We were targeting “rioters” and it was “most unfortunate that the dispersal operation has caused unintended impact on the Kowloon Mosque”.
“A few police officers have messaged Muslim brothers apologising for the unintended spray saying the mosque was not the target and getting in touch with the Kowloon Mosque management too.”
On Monday (Oct 21), Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam and Police Commissioner Stephen Lo have apologised to the local Islamic community and met members of the Islamic Trust, a local community group, at the mosque.
The pair, flanked by police representatives, were at the mosque for a meeting with Chief Imam Muhammad Arshad. The representatives included District Commander of Yau Tsim District Ricky Ho, Police Public Relations Branch Senior Superintendent Yolanda Yu, and two non-Chinese officers Swalikh Mohammed and Gimandeep Singh.
After the brief talks, Arshad and fellow Muslim leaders Zoheir Tyebkhan and Saeed Uddin said Lam and Lo had both apologised for the incident and had described it as a mistake.
Chief Imam Muhammad Arshad said the apology was “accepted” and that the Islamic community hoped to continue living in Hong Kong in peace.
According to Said Uddin, secretary of the Trust: “The chief executive and police commissioner all said, ‘A mistake has been done and we are sorry for that.’
“And we accept [that], because what’s done is done … and they will not repeat it.”
He added that the Council would urge calm among the local Islamic community.
“They sincerely apologised. It was not intentional,” said Zoheir Tyebkhan, chairman of the Incorporated Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong.
“The police are well aware that we are a principled community here, we do not involve ourselves in anything. So, there would be no reason for them to storm the mosque.”
“This is our home, everybody’s home, we want it to be what it was,” he concluded.
The Council also thanked worshippers and Hong Kongers who flocked to clean the mosque soon after the incident.
Shortly after the front of the mosque was soaked on Sunday, a number of people had helped clean the blue dye off the gates and the building’s entrance.